4 ways to overcome imposter syndrome, according to people who have done it

Courtesy Keita H. Williams

If you've felt unqualified for your job despite evidence to the contrary, you might be experiencing what's commonly called imposter syndrome. Although anyone can be affected by it, imposter syndrome was initially observed in high-achieving women who tended to think their success was born of luck instead of hard work or aptitude by Dr. Pauline Rose Clance and Dr. Suzanne Imes back in 1978.

Almost three-fourths, 70%, of Americans have at some point experienced imposter syndrome, according to a 2011 study in The Journal of Behavioral Science. If you're among them, there are some steps you can take to combat this feeling and excel in your career.

At the Get Money Get Paid conference in New York City, a conference put on by the career coaching organization Ladies Get Paid, four experts offered some of their best advice for how you can overcome imposter syndrome:

Anyelis Cordero, Move the Needle Career Coaching

Strategy: Consult with a mentor

Founder of Move the Needle Career Coaching Anyelis Cordero says that the best way to overcome imposter syndrome is by talking about it with a peer mentor or other family members and friends who are interested in seeing you succeed.

"Have conversations like, 'Hey, I'm looking at this job. Here are the qualifications. What do you think?'" Cordero says. "And have a community of people saying 'Girl, you can do that job.' Imposter syndrome gets disempowered when you have open conversations about it."

Imposter syndrome gets disempowered when you have open conversations about it.
Anyelis Cordero
Founder of Move the Needle Career Coaching

Lydia Fenet, Christie's

Strategy: Develop a poker face

Now the managing director and global director of strategic partnerships at Christie's, Lydia Fenet says she experienced imposter syndrome when she got her first job at the auction house. It was her first big promotion and she felt "completely thrown in the deep end."

"I didn't really know what I was doing, but I will say one thing that has really made me strong in my career is a good poker face," Fenet says. "When things start going wrong, my face goes completely calm and I put a big smile on my face. And even if everything is going wrong behind me, I portray a sense of confidence so that people who are trying to throw me off my stride feel calm, even if on the inside I feel like I'm not at all."

Keita H. Williams, Success Bully

Strategy: Visually track your accomplishments

Keita H. Williams runs an "accountability practice" named Success Bully, a service that provides seminars, workshops, and one-on-one counseling to assist women in keeping up with their career goals. When Williams feels like she isn't qualified to be where she is, she consults her accomplishments board, a kind of vision board where she keeps mementos of goals she has achieved.

"Track your progress, track those little wins, so you can go back and look at it all the time," Williams says. "I have an accomplishments board, so each benchmark I hit for the year, I pin it to the board and I can easily look at it when I feel some kind of way. Track the wins and build your confidence."

The Get Money Get Paid conference was put on by Ladies Get Paid, an organization that offers seminars and workshops for women's professional development.
Courtesy Jamie Shum

Amy Nelson, The Riveter

Strategy: Mimic other successful people

Amy Nelson says she experiences imposter syndrome all the time. Before founding The Riveter, a woman-focused but not gender exclusive coworking space, she was a litigator and worked mostly with men. Watching how they "took up space," and "how they stood, how they use their voices," she says, helped her communicate with potential investors when it came to starting her own company.

"I tried to kind of mimic how I had seen men show up in a room, and it felt so unnatural," Nelson says. "I really wanted people to see me, but sometimes we can't see what we don't understand. I thought there was a lot of power in talking to men in a way I thought they could hear me. And I think it worked a lot."

"I'm not a huge advocate that women should kind of adapt to the man's world," she continues. "I think the world will be a lot better off if we were inclusive of all genders and leadership. But to get there, I think I've had to really kind of shake off my imposter syndrome and dive in."

Grow associate video producers Courtney Stith and Neha Dharkar contributed reporting for this piece.

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